In the world of welding, your welder’s helmet is your shadow and probably your most important tool. The helmet becomes an extension of the welder, as it is on at all times during work.
Due to the fact that the helmet never comes off while you’re working, it is of the utmost importance that you are comfortable with your helmet. Picking a helmet might seem like a no-brainer, but you will be surprised by how much the helmet alone can affect your welding process.
The use of quality personal protective equipment and safe welding practices must be a top priority for welders, regardless of the type of welding process. Welding PPE includes, but is not limited to, eye, face, hand, and body protection.
Safety glasses should always be worn under the welding helmet. In addition, the welding environment should be evaluated to ensure appropriate ventilation and respiratory protection.
One of the foundational features of any helmet is safety and compliance. In the United States, welding helmets need to meet ANSI standards and in Canada, the helmets need to be CSA compliant.
General standards ensure that the helmet lens protects the welder from anything that could affect the eyes, which includes ultraviolet and infrared filtering regardless of the shade settings. Safety must be a top priority.
Types of Welding Helmets
There are different types of welding helmets:
- Passive Welding Helmets
- Auto-darkening welding Helmets
- The solar-powered lens Helmet
- Battery-Powered Helmet
- Fixed-shade lens welding helmet
- Variable-shade lens welding helmet
- Pancake Welding Helmet
- Leather Welding Mask
1. Passive welding helmets
This is the most basic type of welding helmet. The passive welding helmet is not a modernized helmet with fancy features, but this does not take away from its effectiveness. It is well-built with tough material. It protects its wearer from flying objects, ultraviolet rays, and the extreme heat emitted from welding.
One of the most favorable advantages of the passive welding helmet is the fact that it is affordable. This helmet would be ideal for any welder who is either on a budget or prefers simple equipment.
- It is a lot cheaper than auto-darkening helmets.
- It is lightweight, simple, and easy to use.
- Lenses are inexpensive and easy to replace.
- The lens stays dark.
- You must remove the hood to check your work between arcs.
- Lenses break easily.
2. Auto-darkening welding helmets
The passive welding helmet might be effective in fulfilling its purpose, but because the lens has to be adjusted consistently, the need for a helmet with an automated lens is evident. This is the main feature of the auto-darkening welding helmet.
During the welding process, the automated helmet will detect the light that is emitted and will adjust the lens accordingly. This feature was implemented in helmets because welders believed that the constant manual adjusting of the lens distracted them and significantly reduced their productivity.
Auto-darkening may prove to be efficacious, but its main shortcoming is the fact that it is usually not very affordable.
3. The solar-powered lens helmet
Some auto-darkening helmets use a fixed battery that can’t be replaced, as it is meant to be recharged by solar energy. The battery will power start the helmet; however, the solar energy will keep it going.
Using solar-powered helmets may prove to be economical because the battery pack doesn’t do much work. Additionally, this type of helmet automatically switches the lens off when not in use. This further increases the economic nature of the solar-powered helmet.
One of the reasons many welders are reluctant to opt for a solar-powered helmet is the fact that it is not ready to use. One would always have to remember to place it in the sun for recharge the day before a project. Forgetting to do so would result in precious time wasted on a project, which could be very costly.
4. The battery-powered helmet
The battery-powered helmet uses a rechargeable or a replaceable battery that is commonly made of Lithium.
Welders are often very busy completing complex projects. If they complain about having to adjust their lenses manually, imagine how much of a hassle using a solar-powered helmet must be.
It is more economical than the battery-powered helmet, but many welders would rather spend a little more on replacing batteries, rather than find themselves in a predicament where their batteries aren’t ready to use just before a project.
With regards to both the solar and battery-powered helmets, it is a matter of personal preference, because both types have their advantages and shortcomings.
5. The fixed-shade lens welding helmet
Fixed-shade helmets typically come with a conventional shade level of 10. These helmets do not adjust to various arc brightness. The fixed-shade lens will be ideal if you intend to work on only one type of project that uses only one type of material.
This way, there will be no need to adjust the lens accordingly. This helmet will also be ideal for DIY savvies who have not experienced welders but like the option of fixing things themselves.
Most welders refer to this type of helmet as the “daddy” helmet because dads will opt for wearing this helmet to fix their iron gates or their child’s bicycle frame.
- Very affordable compared to a variable shade auto-darkening helmet.
- Ideal for those who perform the same welding process over and over.
- You won’t need to change shade strength for many standard welding jobs.
- A different lens may be needed to perform a different welding process.
6. The variable-shade lens welding helmet
Unlike the fixed-shade helmet, this helmet has a feature that enables the lens to adapt to all sorts of lights and brightness emitted by the arc during welding. This helmet is preferred by welders who tend to work on various kinds of projects involving different materials.
Variable and fixed-shade helmets are equally protective. However, the variable-shade helmet adjusts the darkness that the lens provides, thereby increasing the welder’s visibility field tenfold. This may seem like a useless feature, but imagine that you’re welding and the light emitted is too bright.
You can’t see properly, and as a result, you make a mistake that results in a welding defect. Most welders will tell you that a defect is a welder’s worst nightmare because in most instances, the whole weld has to be redone.
- You can choose your shade level to fit the job type.
- You can see clearly through the lens before you strike an arc.
- You don’t have to remove the helmet to check your work.
- The lens automatically darkens when you strike an arc.
- Many recommend this type of helmet for safety.
- It is the most expensive helmet for welding.
- The LCD requires power.
- Batteries need replacing.
- Solar power can take time to charge.
7. Pancake Welding Helmet
Pancake welding helmets are typically used by pipeline welders and feature a circular shield attached to what’s called a “balsa box”. This type of helmet rests over your eyes and is secured to your face by a strap. The round shield protects your face and provides a view of your work through a darkened viewing window.
The real advantage of this kind of helmet is how lightweight it is. The box attached to the round shield that fits over your eyes is made primarily out of balsa wood, which is exceptionally light. The balsa box also surrounds your eyes, blocking out external sunlight. For this reason, pancake helmets are often recommended for anyone welding outside, as traditional-styled helmets can let in too much sunlight.
- Pancake welding helmets are lightweight and can be worn for extended periods.
- The pancake shape of the helmet shields all sides of your face.
- The balsa box goggles block light from all angles and from behind to give you a clear view.
- The softness and lightweight of the balsa box provide a comfortable fit.
- It’s not designed for indoor welding.
- Pancake welding helmets are only used for pipeline welding and other outdoor welding projects.
8. Leather Welding Mask
Leather welding masks are designed to protect not only your face and eyes but your entire head, but they’re not very common. They fit over the top of your head and cover everything from your neck up, with a google shield for your eyes. They are equipped with a darkening lens that flips up and down.
This type of helmet is designed for working in enclosed spaces. It’s also ideal for welding overhead as it protects you from falling sparks and debris. What’s more, it’s heat-resistant and generally made from durable leather.
- It consists of durable leather to provide comfort and strength.
- It covers your entire head and eyes to protect you against sparks and debris.
- Leather welding masks are ideal for working in enclosed spaces and for overhead welding.
- It is not as versatile as other welding helmets.
- It can be hot and uncomfortable to wear for extended periods.
Choosing your helmet
There are countless opinions on which helmet type is best. However, your choice of the helmet should be based on preference, the tasks that you need to perform, and safety standards.
There are safety standards for welding helmets. Some of these safety aspects include complete protection from flying objects, ultraviolet rays, and infrared. The weight of the helmet should not hinder your movements or cause neck pain. The helmet should be sturdy and strong enough to withstand external forces, and it should be able to protect you from the heat emitted.
In order to choose the ideal helmet, take the safety standards, your budget, and your needs and preferences into consideration.
Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Helmet
Protecting your eyes, face, and neck should always be a priority. Before purchasing a welding helmet, you can conduct a market feasibility study to ensure you get the best deal. Visiting online stores and local hardware are great areas to start from.
Auto-darkening helmets will cost you more compared to the passive ones. The price disparity is obviously due to their distinct features, like convenience. A tight budget does not necessarily mean you settle for less. While the auto-darkening helmets are more costly, they have different price ranges depending on the features fitted. However, generally, the passive ones are always more affordable.
While all these helmets’ main aim is to protect you while getting the job done, sometimes the need to use one overrides the other, as we had explained earlier in the overview sections.
3. Power Source
Auto-darkening welding helmets require a battery or solar power to function correctly. Consider where you’re going to get the power from, i.e., where you will purchase the batteries and their cost or where you will charge your solar-powered helmet, is there enough sunlight to charge the battery pack fully?
4. Safety Standards
All welding helmets should comply with internationally recognized safety standards. Helmets mainly protect our eyes from the harmful light produced during welding. Both auto-darkening and passive welding helmets meet the required standards.
In the United States, welding helmets should adhere to the industry-standard ANSI Z87.1. All helmet manufacturers must comply with these safety standards to keep all welders safe and avoid potential lawsuits.
Once you have selected your welding helmet remember these tips:
While welding, always wears protective clothing appropriate for your welding application. Always wear your safety glasses under the welding helmet.
For consistent visibility of the weld, ensure the outer cover lens of the welding helmet is free from slag and spatter.
If welding is your career or is part of it take the time to find the helmet that’s right for you. While it may be tempting to buy the least expensive helmet at the local hardware store, taking the time to explore all of your options can have long-term benefits.